Day 35 – Genoa – Rest Day 1

No cycling at all – though my Trek gets a mention.

The Hostel Abbey is quite small; in the entrance is a two metre square section of cobblestones  (under  a stairway, so you don’t have to walk on them). The wall opposite has two hand carved granite pillars, and a section of granite wall – these are all that remain of the Abbey that once stood here. The current building is old, too – just not ancient old; I’d put it around the late 18th Century with some bits going back to the 16th – a hodge-podge of rooms and corridors, some with ceilings so low that even I am tempted to duck; thick walls, crazy wiring and plumbing. The lift is also special – it moves at about the speed the average glacier moves downhill. Take a book.

Every thing is an extra in a hostel; dinner (the staff  are mostly young volunteers, who in return for a room and a pittance run the place) can be provided for 5 Euro – the staff just cook a bit more of whatever they were going to eat anyway – last night it was vegie pasta, so I paid my 5 Euro and ate with them. A good, basic feed – but way late for me; I’ve been eating at around 6:00 pm,and  in bed by 9:30 at the latest – dinner didn’t start till after 9:00pm. I’ll cater for myself in future – plus tonight’s dinner will probably be meat, or tomatoey…..

Breakfast is an additional 3.5 Euro, and it’s good value (I’ve struggled to find any cafe or restaurant that will serve up a bowl of muesli – sausage, bacon and eggs, no worries – but muesli? no way – so muesli is  a great start to the day for me. There were cornflakes too – plus OJ and watermelon juice, coffee, and a range of jams, and a good toaster with lots of bread. Good value, though several other happy hostellers cooked their own. They all look about twelve, so I guess their pocket money doesn’t run to paying for breakfast. I thought it was great value, so I’ll give it a 7. I’ve had worse in way more expensive hotels.

Yesterday afternoon I walked to the ferry port, tried to buy a ticket, and failed – I’d forgotten my passport. That’s three times in a row now; In Dieppe, two years ago, I did the same, and again in Split, just a week or so back.  It should worry me, but it doesn’t. My subconscious just needs to walk a route twice to fix it internally, so it deliberately makes me leave my passport first time. That’s my theory, anyway.

And I really did need to walk it twice, observing how to get there with a bike. There’s a tunnel, which can (and will be) avoided by crossing at a pedestrian crossing and taking a short combined foot path cum bike lane – and the tunnel needs avoiding – steep drop in, 80 metres of dark, and a steep climb out, with four lanes of one-way traffic; not for the fainthearted cyclist (or one who has any real desire to live). Then the one way system leads you on a little loop, which another short bike lane avoids by going alongside a one-way coming at you stretch of road. It’s chaos out there, Jim; a mad medley of one-way streets, with no provision for pedestrians or cyclists except as a recent afterthought.

One hundred and four Euros lighter, I had my ferry ticket; They don’t do private cabins, so I’ve got a bunk in a four berth, male only, cabin – unless you are married or provably related, it’s segregation city on this boat, sir. The journey is just on 20 hours; starts at 5:00 pm, gets me to Barcelona just under a day later – there’s a time zone in there somewhere too.

That was a 2-and-a-bit km walk, in the traffic and fumes (lots of two stroke engined scooters, and lots of crappily maintained diesel cars, vans and trucks. Lots of stinky fumes, and a gentle blue-grey haze along the roads. Yet at every crossing or bus stop there were people sucking on cigarettes – scary.

The sun was well up now, too – and warm. And humid. I drank 500 ml of chilled water on the way there, and the same on the way back. At least it’s cheap; 50 cents gets you a cold 500 ml bottle of water.

Back in town, in a row of arches opposite the aquarium, I found a mountain bike shop and booked Trek in. He’s got very little braking capacity left, poor thing; the mountains of Northern Greece, Albania, Monte Negro, Croatia and then those across Italy have left bugger all stuff on his disc brake pads;  I had to control my speed downhill on the final approach to Genoa Centro very carefully. I do carry spare disc pads, but it’s 2k km since his last service, and at least the same to go, so I’ve booked him in for a good work over. Machinery likes to be cared for, and good maintenance never hurts.

I spent a couple of hours wandering the narrow laneways around the old port – most so narrow that you can almost touch both sides of the lane. The local cops drive a tiny two seat Fiat car, which squeezes it’s way along them; Mini delivery vans take goods back and forth in the same manner. Lots of young African men about, hassling all and sundry with offers of ‘”free” carvings, or cheap sunglasses, or fake watches, or whatever tawdry tatt they think they can palm off on you. {Tawdry, btw, derives from “St Audrey’s fair”, where relics and souvenirs were of such appalling taste and appearance (and value) that they became synonymous with poor quality} End of lecture.

They (young black men) are not particularly threatening, though they are insistent; best way was just to ignore them and walk on. I do feel sorry for them: strangers in a strange land,  unemployed, just trying to get by somehow – they’re just not going to do it by selling me pricey junk I don’t need, TYVM. They are mostly very tall and skinny, dressed in raggedy jeans, and with interesting hair styles – I can see how some people would feel intimidated.

Down by the part of the old port where the local fishing fleet docks, I found a white-tiled hole in the wall selling fried seafood – battered mussels and other shell fish, fried calamari, fried sardines and whitebait, and a huge variety of other stuff I didn’t recognise. The crowd of locals was three deep, and there were no tables or chairs – people just stood and ate whatever they’d bought in the street. I bought a huge serve of fried calamari and a piece of fish. Hot, greasy and totally amazingly well cooked. 6 Euro. Best feed since yesterday 🙂

More wandering; just aimlessly. I do have a tourist map, but it’s pretty useless. Around 4:00 pm I’d had enough – cycling doesn’t hurt, but walking does; must be a different muscle set – but hipsore and weary, I walked back to the hostel. I stopped and bought a rectangle of fried onion and olive pizza (they cook it in huge trays – you point to the type you want (they have many types – tomato based, meat based, etc) and they cut as much as you indicate you want, weigh it, and sell it to you; it’s all priced by the kilo. That, and the left over half bottle of red from last night is my dinner. I ate it early while watching the last few km of the Giro.

Those kids must be older than twelve – I heard them planning to meet at some uptown bar at 11:00 pm. Good luck, kiddies 🙂

One thing, often forgotten; the tens of thousands who left their country from this port, to strike out and make a new life in foreign lands, losing their language, their culture, their history… Here is Genoa’s mural to the many who left. They leave behind them a hole, a slight rip in the fabric of Italy;  Italy’s loss has been Australia’s gain; they’ve added their share to the richly embroidered tapestry that forms our recent past.


See you down the road.





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